A week ago, on Saturday, March 19, 2016, our fellow Author Chronicles blogger Kerry Gans had the book launch for her first published novel, The Witch of Zal (from Evil Jester Press), at The Doylestown Bookshop at 16 South Main Street in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. The Witch of Zal is a middle grade fantasy in which 12-year-old Dorveday flees authorities so she won’t have to give up her robotic dog, gets lost in a steampunk Oz, acquires an assortment of companions, fight zombicorns, battles hypnotic butterflies, and finally gains the power to change her world forever.
To celebrate Kerry’s first publication and to satisfy our curiosity — since the rest of us have not yet published books and held book launches — we thought we’d ask her some questions about the topic.
We always thought an author had a book launch the day a book first went on sale; however, your book has been available for a couple months. So, just what is a book launch?
A book launch is an event you hold to say, “I did it!” It’s a celebration of your book and all the hard work you put into getting that book published. It’s a moment to hold the book high and scream, “It’s real!” Ideally, this event will also be a big publicity push for you, so you can spread the word about your new book to the world.
Does an author have to hold the launch at a bookstore?
Many authors do have it at a bookstore because the store patrons are natural book buyers. But there’s no rule about having it at a bookstore. You could have it at a library. If your book has a natural tie-in with a certain type of non-book store, you could have it there. For instance, if your book is about pets, you could have it at a pet store or shelter. Friend of the blog Jon McGoran’s environmental thriller launched at Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences. The venue is up to you.
As soon as you have a release date, you should pow-wow with your venue of choice. Sometimes their calendars are booked for months in advance. Early contact will allow you to find the time frame that will draw the most traffic for your event and work well for your personal schedule.
Should there be decorations and food?
How much or little you do in this area is up to you. Any venue that regularly hosts events will have a table with a nice covering and bookstands for your books. Most authors also have some sort of swag or eye-catching decoration. I had a green crystal ball next to my bookmarks and business cards, and a rainbow-colored floral arrangement at one end of the table. Both served to catch the eye and bring some color to the signing table.
As for food, I think most people appreciate something to nibble on at an event. This doesn’t mean you need to break the bank on food. I bought a couple of dozen cupcakes, my mother baked chocolate chip cookies, and a friend baked dog-shaped cookies. We also supplied some small water bottles. Get creative with your food—make it fun and book-themed.
What should an author be prepared to do at the launch?
What I did at my launch is pretty standard, but feel free to get creative, mix it up, add or eliminate items, whatever—this is your launch, it should reflect you and what you are comfortable with. Be sure to have someone take photos, so you can use them on your website, Facebook page, and other social media.
I gave a little speech thanking everyone who helped me get to where I am today. I felt this was important because a) I didn’t get published on my own, and b) you never know if you will get the chance again. For all that I plan to write more books and have more launches, you just never know.
I also played my book trailer, which gave me a moment’s break from being the center of attention and gave my vocal cords a rest. And it made a lot of people say, “Wow!” because it’s a really excellent trailer.
Then I read an excerpt from my book. Keep the reading to under 10 minutes. Longer than that and people can get bored (unless you are an awesome reader). The reading does not have to be the first chapter, but pick an excerpt appropriate to the audience that can be easily understood without a lot of setup.
After that, sign books, chat with people, and have a grand old time!
What should an author do after the launch?
Relax and bask in the afterglow of a successful event! But also, take some time to post photos of the event on social media—be sure to tag the venue. And always, always, send a thank you note to the venue, particularly naming any staff members who went above and beyond.
What’s the most important thing to remember about a launch?
Believe it or not, the number of books you sell is not the most important thing about a launch. Sure, you’d love to sell out, but that’s not what the launch is about. The launch is about celebrating your book and the journey you took to get there. The most important part of the launch is the friends and family who turn out to celebrate with you. They have encouraged you along the publishing path, and they are there on your big day to support you.
So enjoy your book launch event — you’ve earned it!
Thanks, Kerry, and good luck with The Witch of Zal!